GARY LONG Staff Writer

Two teams from Brownsville Veterans Memorial Early College High School were among 82 from around the world to compete Tuesday in the National History Day National Contest at the University of Maryland in suburban Washington, D.C.


The teams qualified for the national contest by finishing 1-2 in the senior group performance category at the Texas History Day contest on April 27 in Austin. The national contest is the final stage in a series of contests at local, state and affiliate levels around the world. The top two finishers in each category in state and affiliate contests advance to the national contest.


“We swept a category. It’s a proud moment for our community and Veterans Memorial,” Rod Garcia, the team advisor and a National History Day veteran, said of the two Brownsville teams.


“Our students have the formidable task of trying to advance to the top 10 against teams from the United States, Guam, American Samoa, Southeast Asia, Shanghai, China and Puerto Rico to name a few,” he said.


“Our students are definitely ambassadors of good will,” he added. “They’re networking and bringing Texas hospitality to the University of Maryland.”


The theme for this year’s competition is “Triumph and Tragedy.” Garcia said students on the two Brownsville teams are performers in their own right, having performed in productions at VMHS and at Camille Lightner Playhouse.


“This is the first time any BISD school has swept the top two spots in a senior category,” he said. “These kids are exceptional and their dedication is starting to be recognized. They’ll be going up against 82 teams from around the world. We welcome the competition.”


Garcia said the office of U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, was exceptional in arranging for the group to tour the Pentagon and the Rayburn House Office Building in suburban Washington. He said Vela met the group at the Pentagon, early Monday morning, left to attend to business and met up with them again at the Rayburn Office Building.


“For all of us to share this together was special,” Garcia said. “How many times does your congressman meet with you twice in one visit?”


The project that garnered first place at state was titled “The Triumph and Tragedy of Operation Iceberg,” It was about the Battle of Okinawa during World War II in Hawaii. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among the soldiers and the decision to drop the atomic bomb were among the topics.


Garcia dubbed this group his “sophomore sensations.” They’ll be juniors next year. On the team are: Aiden Anzaldua, Mathew Montiel, Andrea Urbina, Joel SantivaƱez and Monserat Sandoval-Malherbe.


The second-place project is titled “Triumphant Paintings of Tragedy: Artemisia Gentileschi.” Gentileschi is a late Renaissance-early Baroque painter. The project is about her struggles in a patriarchal society. Team members are Alexandria Sikes and the brother-sister duo of Alejandro and Lauren Cuevas.


Garcia said the teams had 10 minutes to perform their projects Tuesday morning.


“Our teams had a mission from the beginning to advance to national competition,” he said. “They made a pact in November for both of them to get to nationals. Optimism in November becomes reality in June.”


Garcia in 2010 took a team from Hanna High School to the National History Day National Contest, and again in 2014 from Veterans Memorial.